Tuesday, January 8, 2013

David Bowie, "I'm Afraid of Americans" (Nine Inch Nails remix)

"'Bowie is trending' pretty much describes his entire amazing career,"  comedian Robert Florence wrote on his Twitter page today. He was addressing the Goblin King's 66th birthday and announcement of his new album.

Whether he's forging new trends or capitalizing on current ones, Bowie has been one of the most forward-thinking minds in modern entertainment, moreso than can be capsulized in a 140-word comment. But let's look at one angle.

My first Bowie record was Earthling. I was young enough to believe that the best introduction to any artist was through his or her most recent work, but also impressionable enough to enjoy Earthling immensely. It does have some good songs, fun forays into electronic and industrial music that sounds neat albeit dated in the 21st century.

The only song from Earthling that has aged well is "I'm Afraid of Americans," written with Brian Eno and remixed by Bowie fanatic Trent Reznor, whom also co-stars in the music video. You've seen this before--the quinquagenarian rock star allotting himself with chic younger musicians in a bid for commercial success. But in this case, Bowie seems genuinely inspired by Reznor, his 1995 tourmate, coming up with a seething, paranoid anthem worthy of Pretty Hate Machine. Too often pigeonholed as an escapist, Bowie conjures NIN's angst with a musically and lyrically bold skewer of humanity. Unlike "Born in the U.S.A.," "Fortunate Son" or "Rockin' in the Free World," there's no confusing this song for nationalism.

"He encouraged the computer to misconstrue input, willing it to spew out bloated misshapen shards of sound that pierced and lacerated the listener," Bowie later wrote of Nine Inch Nails. "As a companion piece to Baudelaire’s To the Reader, the preface to Flowers of Evil, second to the Velvet Underground there has never been better soul lashing in rock." Maybe not, but this comes close. 

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